For many Filipinos, the word “churros” conjures up images of eating at a Spanish restaurant, munching on the snack—dipped in hot chocolate, of course.
Nowadays though, the churro has taken on different forms. Now you can have it coated with white chocolate or matcha chocolate, have it stuffed with dulce de leche or Nutella or even stuffed with savory ingredients like sausages and caramelized onions. You can even get churro ice cream sandwiches, if you know where to look.
There are also a lot more places in the Metro where you can get this fried pastry snack. Gone are the days when you could only satisfy your churro con chocolate craving by stopping by a local Dulcinea; places like La Lola and La Maripili have slowly began to make a name for themselves over the past few months.
But how exactly has this humble pastry transformed from being a simple afternoon snack into the versatile churro that we know and love today?
How the churro came to be
It’s hard to say exactly where churros came from. Some historians trace the pastry back to early nomadic Spanish shepherds, who wanted an easy-to-eat snack while they were working. Since they lived in the mountains, a solution for them was to deep fry dough and eat it as is.
On the other hand, another theory goes that the churro came from Portuguese traders who got the Chinese recipe for doughnuts and tweaked it a bit so that it would become the snack we love.
But regardless of what theory you believe, a classic churro is made with deep-fried dough and sprinkled with powdered sugar. It’s usually served with a side of hot chocolate.
The churro gets its distinctive shape and texture from being piped through a churrera, a tube with a star-shaped nozzle. Churros can come out straight, curled, or twisted, depending on who’s making them.
Churros are actually a very popular street food in many parts of Latin America, with churro stalls, also known as churrerias (xurrerias), being as common as fish ball stands here in the Philippines.
Aside from that, churros are also very much popular for breakfast over there, with people choosing to dip the piping hot pastry in either hot chocolate, dulce de leche, or café con leche.
Manila’s classic Churros con Chocolate
Did you know that Dulcinea has been around serving Spanish dishes and their famous Churros con Chocolate since 1963? It’s been the go-to place for years should anyone want some of that fried dough + hot chocolate combo.
Aside from Dulcinea, churro fans back before the churro craze happened also had a couple of other places to hit up.
In 2005, Xocolat opened in Greenhills. While they were known for chocolate dishes (chicken pasta with chocolate shavings, anyone?), they were also popular for their Churros con Xocolat. They also offered different dips like dulce de leche and Nutella.
5 years later, in 2010, well before its location booms in popularity, a small Spanish restaurant called Sancho Churreria opened in Maginhawa, Quezon City. Together with classic tapas and paella, they also served churros con chocolate.
In 2013, reviewers also started talking about Wildflour Cafe + Bakery’s Parmesan Churros – a savory take on the classic sweet snack.
In early 2014, another Spanish restaurant opened in SM Megamall and looloo reviewers were once again, raving about the churros con chocolate. Now rebranded as Alqueria Restaurante y Chocolateria, Boqueria became one of the hotspots for paella and good churros con chocolate.
The demand for the fried dough snack was there but a trend it was not. We had a churros cafe but it was not exactly accessible being located in a hotel in Manila. And if we craved for churros, they were mostly found in Spanish restaurants which meant we’d have to get a table and dine in.
2014: Finally, a local churreria
In late 2014, Churreria La Lola opened shop at the Power Plant Mall in Rockwell. Serving just a couple of different kinds of churros and xuxos (pronounced as “chuchos”) that are all freshly made, they were pretty much Manila’s first xurreria – except it’s not located on some street but instead, in an upscale mall.
Suddenly, mall goers were walking around with La Lola’s signature churro box with its hot chocolate container on the side. Reviews on looloo would talk about the hour-long wait but would end up with a 4 or 5-star rating anyway.
The Churro Classicos, their own take on the classic churros with hot chocolate, became a trendy snack.
Throughout 2015, they also became popular for their more adventurous takes on the churro, with La Lola offering churros coated with matcha chocolate, churros stuffed with dulce de leche or Nutella, or even savory churros like their Perrito Calliente, which is essentially chorizo and caramelized onions sandwiched in between a churro bun.
And despite having stores in a number of malls and being in operation for almost two years, any La Lola that you’ll stop by at will usually have a long line.
In 2015, we also started seeing places offer all sorts of churro dishes. From the churro ice cream sandwich of Dairy Depot to both Pan De Manila and Army Navy joining the churro craze, we were definitely far from seeing the last of it.
In fact, at the end of 2015, a churro bakery in Lucky Chinatown, Binondo opened up. Qurros Spanish Donuts even serve them in nugget form or as an ice cream topping.
This year, another place that started to gain steam is La Maripili in Alabang, which opened just this April. Like La Lola, they offer stuffed churros but with crazier flavors like coconut cream, mojito, and even chocolate and chili mousse.
They also have savory stuffed churros with flavors like Jamon Serrano, which uses ham imported from Spain and chorizo with honey, which is made with locally sourced sausages. Unlike many churrerias, La Maripili also uses sunflower oil to fry its churros. This makes the churros less oily than if it was fried in olive oil.
What’s next for the churro?
From its humble origins as a breakfast to the creative ways that Filipino churrerias have transformed the snack, it seems like churros are not just another food trend. After all, for many of us, churros have been a part of our lives since childhood. It’s brought us through cold rainy Christmas nights and through warm summer afternoons.
And who knows what other creative snacks Filipinos can make out of churros? Let’s see in the next few months what our favorite local churrerias will cook up.